Friday, April 4, 2014

That Other World I Touch

In Memoriam
Charlotte Cathey Stewart
~ friend & litterateur ~
25 November 1938 ~ 29 March 2014

A poem for Charlotte . . . by Charlotte . . .

Lost Continent
Loss laps the shore of this awful
sunlit day, bathes the bare roots
of a single shoreline tree. I feel

this continent's afloat, conceals another
deeper down. I think that we could
find it, if we knew the way.
What's buried?
Some dark jubilance we've never known.
Or only I. That other world I touch.
That expectation you arouse in me:

maps in our hands, if they were joined,
deep spells that blind, and spells
that make us see. So be it.
Now begins
the evening's bright lament. Voices blaze
like sunset's spreading tent: I want
to know you. Naked thought:
as if to know could set us free.

written by Charlotte Stewart in 1983
from her book of poems: A Home Against One's Self

Re - reading this beautiful poem for the first time in many years, I had to wonder, did Charlotte compose it in honor of someone else's death? Perhaps she told me at the time and I've forgotten, yet another loss.

She writes of a deeper, lost continent concealed beneath our visible world but, more importantly, of a deeper, richer self - awareness, lost -- or as yet unfound -- that lives below the surface that we currently apprehend as our existence. Is Charlotte there now? Has she found it -- the dark jubilance -- now that she has touched the other life?

When I met Charlotte, she was managing editor of the James Joyce Quarterly, and I was lucky enough to be one of her student assistants for a semester. I've never forgotten Charlotte telling me that when she was little, she thought that the last line of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" was "life is butter beans" (rather than "life is but a dream"). Sometime after that, she drew me a little card with those words and a smiling butter bean. A happy memory.

On the back, it says "From Charlotte ~ October 11, 1982"

Other fun memories include the day that we sat in the office reading out all the the questions on the MMPI and making jokes of all our answers. Or the time when Charlotte bought me my first ever Cadbury Creme Egg at one of her favorite little shops near Utica Square. This confection was totally unknown to me until that day when Charlotte told me that I had to try one and we admired the candy yolk inside the white creme. Of course, best of all were the many friends and the way that Charlotte pulled us all together.

End of Fall Semester Party at Charlotte's house, 1982.
Look how much fun she was having!
Clockwise from noon: Kay, Charlotte, Susan, Jes, Jan, Donna

Charlotte's friend Marguerite shared this drawing and wrote to say that "Charlotte loved to doodle. When she learned that my totem was the rabbit (as I was born in the Chinese year of the hare), she started drawing rabbit images on her notes to me."

So fitting for this sad yet, to quote Charlotte,
"darkly jubilant" occasion.
And to you too, dear Charlotte:
"See you anon!"

For more doodles & photographs, see my facebook album:
Tulsa 1982 & Beyond


  1. Thank you, Kitti. A beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman. I am constantly struck by how much I learn about people after they die--things I didn't know while they lived. I love her drawings of bunnies.

  2. And now (May 2015) Shari Benstock -- like Charlotte -- to lose the gift of language after devoting a lifetime to it and being such an eloquent expert! How can life be so unfair? When the day comes, I've got A LOT of questions for the Intelligent Designer.